John Safran versus God: Australian comedian/documentary filmaker John Safran (of streaking through Jerusalem fame) has made a new series in which he: has a fundamentalist Islamic cleric put a fatwa on a fellow comedian, is beaten by a Japanese Zen Buddhist monk, attempts to get the Klu Klux Klan to admit him as a member because he is only “half Jewish,” and tries to uncover the secrets of Freemasonry. According to The Age, “Safran maintains he began each religious experience in the series seriously hoping something would happen. As he explains it, if he found a particular religion to be true that would be a sensational discovery.”
Lois K. Solomon, education writer for The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports on the controversy caused by Geoff McKee, principal of Boca Raton High School. McKee, a devout Baptist who does not believe in evolution, has angered some parents and teachers by his frequent religious references in staff meetings and his attempts to start a Bible class for students. “‘I don’t think there’s anything wrong or unconstitutional with acknowledging God in public,’” said McKee. “‘The president talks about God frequently.’” A spokesman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals told Soloman that the guidelines for separating religion and public education were unclear, and that the key factor is “how much religion the community is willing to tolerate.” “‘He can go as far as he wants until a parent decides he’s gone far enough.’”
Relapsed Catholic points us to this AP story: The vandalism and burning of a Jewish community center in Paris has been blamed on neo-Nazis by the mainstream press but an unknown group of militants have claimed responsibility on a militant Islamic site.
According to a new Pew poll, the fickle American public has changed its mind again about candidates discussing their faith and prayer. Jim Remsen of Knight Ridder Newspapersreports on the “‘marked shift’” in public attitudes towards religious references: In 2003, 41% of respondents said politicians discussed their faith too little, while only 31% say the same today; the number of respondents who said there was too much God-talk rose from 21% to 27%. According to Pew officials, criticism of President Bush, a born-again Christian, accounts for most of the drop-off. “‘He is closely associated with mixing conservative politics with fundamentalist Christianity – and when a president becomes unpopular, just about everything he’s associated with takes a dive in the polls, too.’” So, what’s a politician to do, when he’s left, Bible in hand, in the middle of the dance floor? Relax, be yourself…
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most influential Shi’ite cleric, has returned to the country and is calling for citizens to march on the “burning city” of Najaf, Reuters reports. While details about the march are not yet known, there is speculation that it could exacerbate anger among the majority Shi’ite community and that Sistani’s return is an attempt to reclaim political power from Sadr, who has called for his own followers to march on Najaf.
“‘What he’s saying is that he wants to create a bunch of Jerry Falwell clones with law degrees who will fill up the courts and courtrooms with people who think just like him. And that has serious implications for people who don’t.’” Allen Pusey of The Dallas Morning Newsreports more details and rhetoric about Falwell’s new, conservative Christian law school, the stated aim of which is to “‘return America to her religious heritage,’” and “‘training the lawyers who can turn the legal profession back to the right.’”
In an emergency ruling, a federal appeals court decided last night that the open Bible monument outside a Houston court can remain while the appeals court consider’s the county’s request to delay removal (per order of a prior ruling) while they appeal. Read more.